The Devastating War: July–August 2006
The protracted conflict between Hezbollah and Israel took a sharp turn in the summer of 2006 when Hezbollah fighters crossed into Israeli territory on July 12. Eight soldiers were killed, and two others were taken prisoner. Immediately following this raid, Israeli launched a full-scale military air, sea, and land attack, which lasted 33 days and covered most regions in Lebanon, with a heavy concentration on South Lebanon and Beirut’s southern suburbs. Israel’s defense minister announced that the attack would seek to eradicate Hezbollah from South Lebanon and would continue until the Lebanese Army deployed to the area.
During the 33 days, 1,109 Lebanese were killed, the large majority of whom were civilians. The injured numbered 4,399, and approximately 1 million civilians were displaced. An estimated one third of the casualties were children. The displaced, mostly from South Lebanon and Beirut’s southern suburbs, represented approximately one fourth of the Lebanese population; there were around 735,000 internally displaced people and 230,000 who fled from the country. Furthermore, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the rockets launched by Hezbollah between July 12 and August 14, 2006, killed 43 Israeli civilians and injured 101, including 33 seriously.
On July 13, Israel imposed a land, sea, and air blockade on Lebanon that continued until September; the Israeli bombed the runways of the Beirut international airport and its fuel tanks.
The Israeli strikes caused massive destruction to civilian infrastructure, including 50 schools that were completed destroyed; 300 more were damaged, as well as 109 bridges and 137 roads. Water and medical facilities, numerous mosques and churches, TV and radio transmission stations, and historical, archaeological, and cultural sites also suffered massive damage. Moreover, 7,500 homes were destroyed and 20,000 damaged in South Lebanon. Around 400 homes were destroyed and 5,000 damaged in the Beqaa and Baalbeck. Some 127 factories were hit by the strikes.
July 13–15, 2006: The Israeli Air Force bombed the Jiyeh power station in South Lebanon. This caused 10,000 to 15,000 tons of fuel to spill into the Mediterranean Sea; 55,000 tons burning; and the pollution of 120 kilometers of coastline. The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) expressed its belief that this attack was premeditated and that the oil spill would affect two -thirds of Lebanon’s coastline.
Thirty direct attacks by the Israeli Army were documented to have taken place against UNIFIL positions, leading to the death of four unarmed UN observers at the Khiyam base. The UN HRC concluded that these attacks were not justified.
The Israeli Army dropped an estimated one million cluster submunition “duds” on South Lebanon, the vast majority during the last 72 hours of the conflict, after the ceasefire had been agreed to, but before it took effect. By September 2011, 51 civilians had been killed (including four children), and 357 were wounded (including 311 children). The attacks had severely damaged the economy in a region where the primary source of income was agriculture.
This war was documented extensively by international NGOs and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), all of which issued public reports. The incidents below are all derived from the investigations these organizations conducted. All of these reports concluded that the primary victims of this war were Lebanese civilians, and that they had died as a result of indiscriminate, disproportionate use of force by the Israeli Army.
Following the truce agreed to on August 14, 2006, UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army began to deploy along the border with Israel. Since then, no large-scale clashes have taken place, but numerous violations of territorial space continue to take place regularly, and sporadic violent incidents occur.